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Don't Delay Lung Cancer Surgery, Study Suggests

FRIDAY, May 28, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Surgery soon after a diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer is crucial in reducing the risk of recurrence and death, a new study finds.

"Patients with early-stage cancer have the best chance for survival," said senior author Dr. Varun Puri, a thoracic surgeon and professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "That's why it's critical for patients to promptly seek treatment within 12 weeks after they've been diagnosed."

But some patients postpone surgery. They have a variety of reasons for doing so, including getting second opinions, economic or social factors, or even family events such as child's wedding or a vacation, researchers noted.

Since last year, concerns about contracting COVID-19 in the hospital also led patients to delay surgery.

But this study of more than 9,900 U.S. patients (average age: 67) with stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer who had surgery between October 2006 and September 2016 found that waiting more than 12 weeks after diagnosis with a CT scan was associated with increased odds of recurrence and death.

The majority (70%) of patients had surgery within 12 weeks. On average, those who had surgery within 12 weeks lived 7.5 months longer than those who did not -- 76.1 months versus 68.6 months.

Forty-two percent of patients had a recurrence of cancer in the six years after surgery, but it was more common in patients who had surgery after 12 weeks. Each week of delay was associated with a modest increase in the risk of recurrence, according to findings published May 27 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

"Physicians and patients want to know more about the safety of delaying surgery. The risks have been poorly understood because previous studies have used imprecise definitions for the date of cancer diagnosis. The goal of our study was to provide more uniform data, which we did by tracking patients from most recent CT scan diagnosis to day of surgery," Puri said in a university news release.

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer (after skin cancers) and the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for 84% of all lung cancer cases and the five-year survival rate is 25%, according to the American Cancer Society.

More information

The American Lung Association has more on lung cancer.

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, news release, May 27, 2021

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